I was studying the faces of passengers on a downtown-bound subway the other night, and I thought: Surely, these people had to be good. Because I would much rather subscribe to the idea that the world was primarily filled with good people. And I myself — would much rather be good, too.
(And I remember there was a man once who told me to never start a sentence with an “and”. And I didn’t listen. Obviously.)
I have nearly forgotten what it’s like to people-watch. Unless on a rare occasion of some public gathering in LA-LA, one must always keep the eyes on the road. Here, we drive, we speed; and we complain if we aren’t moving fast enough. All the other people become mere faces which we quickly glaze over, behind the wheels of other cars, at stop signs and in the oncoming traffic:
Everyone keeps their eyes on the road. Or on their cellphones, in the passenger seat.
Sometimes, I watch the faces reflected in my rearview mirror. And every once in a while, I steel a gaze or a nod from the guy over in the next lane. And that’s kind of nice. It’s good.
(And I do remember: There was a man once who told me to never start a sentence with an “and”. And I didn’t listen. Obviously. And I am glad — that I didn’t.)
The accidental faces of pedestrians tend to zoom by us. We aren’t used to them around here, unless driving through a rare public space expected to be packed with tourists. Yet, even then, we avoid making eye contact with them, as if these people — who are most likely good — are nonexistent. Instead, we nervously watch the quickly expiring gap to make a turn over a pedestrian walkway. And if the guy on foot isn’t moving fast enough, we pretend not to see him and cut in front. (Ah, shit! What an inconvenience!)
Some pedestrians have a certain swagger around here. They tend to live in those rare occasional spaces expected to be packed with tourists. As locals, they tend to take their time crossing the street. Ballsy, they make an eye contact with us, as if saying:
“What cha gonna do? Run me ova’?!”
So, you wait, embarrassed at having caught yourself at being less than good. And to avoid that shameful stare, you look over at your cellphone in the passenger seat.
The best thing is to wait. Sometimes, the guy waves you over. He’s moving on foot, and he knows he is not fast enough. Because even when we are on the road (while not always keeping our eyes on it), we often wish to be miles ahead. Around here, we are overwhelmed by the commitments that we continue negotiating on our cellphones in the passenger seat.
Here, we drive. We speed. LA-LA — is a working city, primarily. Sometimes, we pretend to fit our lives in between; but most of us have come here to work. And sometimes, we tend to forget that the world is still primarily filled with good people. And that, no matter the work, we ourselves would much rather be good, too.
(And I do remember: There was a man once who told me to never start a sentence with an “and”. And he also told me that not everyone — was good. And I didn’t listen. Obviously.)
This middle-aged Mexican woman napping, with her tired head leaned against an anti-terrorism warning: Surely, she’d put in a good day of work. And surely, she had to be good!
The man in a construction worker’s overalls: He looked like the guy stuck in our traffic for the entirety of his working day. His already dark skin was filled with dust, exhaust — and exhaustion. Because of his work, at some typical non-public space in LA-LA, there was probably more congestion on the road today. And he watched us driving, speeding by, wishing to be miles ahead.
The businessman in a suit that lacked the sheen of a designer label: He was staring down and a few feet ahead — in a New York subway fashion — and he wouldn’t steal as much as a gaze at a pretty girl who got on at the City College stop, at Santa Monica and Vermont.
And the pretty girl who got on at the City College stop: Under her arm she carried a thick tome of some nursing book I myself would find impossible to decipher. I wondered what made her choose the goodness of her future profession. And what made her choose to be good.
And surely, these other people — on the way home from their days of good work — had to be good, too!
Because I would much rather subscribe to the idea that the world was primarily filled with good people.
And I myself — would much rather choose to be good, too.